A wizard of the written word, today marks the 110th birthday of Theodor Geisel — better known as the dear Dr. Seuss. The beloved children’s author and illustrator created a menagerie of creatures that recited anapestic tetrameter, caused trouble, and captured our imaginations. The man behind beasties like the Grinch, Lorax, and Sneetches was a fascinating character in his own right. Here are 20 facts about the great Dr. you might have missed.
Geisel adopted his famous moniker after getting kicked off the staff of Dartmouth College’s humor magazine, the Jack-O-Lantern. He was caught drinking bootleg gin with his pals and was forced to resign from extracurricular activities at school. He started signing his work with the pen name “Seuss” to hide it from his editor.
Geisel almost earned his doctorate in English literature, but left Oxford to travel Europe and sow his artistic oats. Dartmouth awarded Geisel an honorary doctorate in 1956, and he added “Dr.” to his pen name as a way to acknowledge his father’s dreams for him.
A known perfectionist, Geisel would sometimes spends months or even up to a year creating a book. Despite this, he somehow found time to write over 45 children’s books during his colorful career.
Shockingly, Geisel never won the Caldecott or Newbery Medals. He was recognized with the Caldecott Honor three times: McElligot’s Pool (1947), Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949), and If I Ran the Zoo (1950).
Thanks to his love of language, Geisel is usually credited with inventing the word “nerd.” It appeared in his 1950 book, If I Ran the Zoo. However, it wasn’t popularized as a slang term until the 1960s.